This card programme is an excellent example of best practice in the roll-out and ongoing management of a global scheme. Essential to its success is the fact that the roll-out was ‘owned’ by the treasury team.
Photo of Helen Hanby, Biogen, Marco Buzzi, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Steve Green, Biogen.
Biogen is one of the world’s oldest independent biotechnology companies. It specialises in the discovery, development, and delivery of therapies for the treatment of neurodegenerative, hematologic and autoimmune diseases to patients worldwide.
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Rapid roll-out of global card solution
The firm’s card programme was originally set up with the US in mind. As the company had grown internationally, each country had responded to the needs of its travelling staff by developing their own, local card programme. The result was a lack of standardisation across the group, with no or inconsistent data from multiple sources being fed into its Oracle Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.
Having worked with Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofAML) on the firm’s global cash management requirements, Biogen asked the bank to tender for the provision of a global card solution.
With the acceptance of BofAML’s proposal, the project, which was being driven by treasury, rather than procurement, could proceed via established links into the bank. This allowed for tight integration of the card data with the company’s expense management platform and with its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. The result was a rapid roll-out.
The programme began in the UK, but was rapidly extended to over 25 European countries. Such was its success that it was subsequently adopted by the US, replacing a long-standing legacy card offering, resulting in a truly global programme.
Today, all the company’s T&E is handled through a single card programme, with travelling staff using company Mastercards provided through BofAML. Additionally, this year, lodge cards have been put in place for Biogen’s global travel provider to pay flight costs, which are also contributing to the company’s rebate.
“Prior to this project I (nor the Treasury function) had had any involvement with the card business, so we are thrilled to be a highly commended winner, amongst such strong competition and great companies, and to be recognised for the work that has gone into this project over the past few years.”
Best practice and innovation
The Biogen card programme is an excellent example of best practice in the roll-out and ongoing management of a global scheme. Essential to its success is the fact that the roll-out was ‘owned’ by the treasury team under the leadership of Helen Hanby, Associate Director, International Treasury, rather than by the procurement team. This has meant that the existing relationship with BofAML could be leveraged and that the financial benefits of global scale and data reporting could be fully exploited.
In addition, widespread consulting with stakeholders before and during implementation meant that the project received widespread ‘buy in’, not just from the local management teams whose legacy card programmes were being replaced, but from both central IT and the financial shared service centre.
Prior to this project, the treasury function had had no involvement with the card business. It is a testament to its professionalism that it has managed to accumulate the necessary understanding and achieve such positive results over the course of this body of work. “I am thrilled to be a Highly Commended Winner, amongst such strong competition and great companies, and to be recognised for the work that has gone into this project over the past few years,” says Hanby.
There have been a number of learnings drawn from this project. Leveraging the relationship with the chosen banking partner has been key amongst these. As Hanby explains, “the bank and its people know and understand your business and its requirements and can partner with you to develop an optimal solution”.
Furthermore, she advises the importance of securing the engagement and support of key stakeholders at all stages of the project, from the initial RFP to ensuring a robust process is in place once implemented.
Single technology infrastructure and data feed vastly improves reporting and monitoring across the regions.
Lower costs and fewer opportunities for errors.
Efficiencies derived from a standardised payment process to one single supplier.
Rebates are delivered at an international rather than a corporate level, resulting in tens of thousands of dollars being accessible for the first time.
Single global reporting tool for cards provides richer data to support better decision-making.
Travelling staff saving hundreds of hours a month in expense claim administration.
Facilitated a switch to a new corporate travel agency.
Avoids banking cost increases associated with MIFD compliance.
Key learning points
I would say the key learnings are to leverage the relationship with your banking partner as someone who knows and understands your business and its requirements and can partner with you to develop an optimal solution.
It is also key to have the engagement and support of key stakeholders at all stages of the project, from the initial RFP to ensuring a robust process is in place once implemented.
Associate Director, International Treasury
Helen Hanby, ACMA and AMCT, is currently Berkshire based and has lived and worked in the UK and Europe. Supported by an analyst, she has treasury responsibility for all non North American entities across Europe, Asia and Latin America for Biogen.